Interested in a little behind-the-scenes? My name is Brendan Hogan; I am the sound designer and programmer for Violence and I’d like to take you on a tour of some of my favorite parts of this new library. Violence is the culmination of a series of experiments that I have been working on for some time now and documenting on my blog Impossible Acoustic. While I own and enjoy many multi-sampled recreations of acoustic instruments, I’m fascinated by the potential of sampling to create entirely new sounds and instruments that straddle the line between acoustic and digital. Some of the instruments in Violence sound acoustic, some sound electronic, some are in between, but they are all made from multi-sampled recordings of a single violin.
The 82 instruments which make up Violence are organized into four categories: Melodic, Pads and Sound Effects, Drum Kits, and Tempo Synced. I’d like to take a moment to pick one of my favorite instruments from each category and tell you a little more about them and what went into their creation.
There are a lot of interesting melodic instruments in Violence, made from some pretty unusual sources, for example, plucking the strings with a guitar pick instead of fingers. Or striking the body of the violin with a soft mallet to create marimba-like tones. There’s also a very silly instrument called “Gnome Child” created by wetting my fingers and rubbing them across the tailpiece of the violin. The resulting sound has a sort of vocal quality kind of like the cuíca and other friction drums. There’s also an extensively multi-sampled instrument made by striking the violin strings with chopsticks which includes controls for realistic bounces and rolls.
One of my favorite instruments in the melodic section is called “Organ from Harmonics” which, as the name suggests, is made from lightly processed recordings of bowed harmonics. This instrument sounds great at its default settings, but like most of the instruments in this library, by altering the default knob settings you can create a whole range of unique sounds. In the following demo track, I’ve taken many different instances of the “Organ from Harmonics” and created a whole series of unique sounds simply by changing knob settings. With the exception of one instance of “Altered Kit”, the following demo track is made entirely from “Organ from Harmonics”.
PADS AND SFX
Artists and scientists alike know that the most striking discoveries often happen purely by accident. One of my favorite instruments in the “Pads and SFX” category is an instrument called “Rhythms of Grass”. This instrument came about while I was recording samples for the percussion instrument “Bow Kit”. I was hitting the neck of the violin with the back of the violin bow; first softly then harder, harder, and harder when, as I should have anticipated but didn’t, the violin bow broke. This ruined my plans for the rest of my studio session so I began casting about for other ideas. Still holding the broken bow in my hand, and the recording still rolling, I took the hairs from the broken bow and looped them around the back of the g string and began pulling it back and forth. The resulting sound is similar to a properly bowed note but much rougher and with more prominent overtones. I continued to experiment with bowing in this fashion and the resulting recordings found their way into several instrument, most predominantly in “Rhythms of Grass” which sounds like this:
The percussion instrument “Bow Kit” is my favorite drum kit and it is also one of the simplest. Other drum kits feature heavily designed sounds, with each sample carefully and individually processed. The “Bow Kit” on the other hand, is made up entirely of acoustic samples. I bowed muted strings, bowed above the neck and below the bridge, bowed the bridge itself and the chin rest. I also used the back of the bow as a drum stick, which resulted in unintended consequences as I have already mentioned. All of these samples were then subjected to only one form of processing: re-pitching. I am frequently amazed by how transformative the simple act of re-pitching can be. In the following audio clip, you will hear a rhythm made from samples of bowed squeaks and back-of-the-bow strikes all at their original pitch. Immediately following, is the exact same rhythm with the samples re-pitched. Listen to how drastically different they sound.
Each drum kit in Violence comes with controls that not only allow you to quickly and easily re-pitch each note individually, you can also save and re-load your custom configurations thereby creating a whole series of unique drum kits all from the same instrument.
For a while now, I have been playing with the idea of “playable loops”. Most loops are pre-determined static events. You press a button, hold it down and let them do their thing. You can change the tempo and change the pitch, but beyond that you don’t have much control over them. There is one such instrument in Violence which I have appropriately named “One Trick Pony”. It’s a cool loop, and could be very useful in the right situation, but generally my goal was to make all the instruments, even the loops, playable, versatile and dynamic. One instrument which exemplifies this philosophy, is the instrument in the “Tempo Synced” section called “Chopstickin”. As the name suggests, this instrument was made by striking the violin strings with chopsticks. By alternately muting and un-muting the string at different locations, I created a rhythm of tones and overtones which sound like this:
This performance was then repeated on multiple strings and at different volumes. I also recorded separate release samples so that when a note is released quickly, it rings out and the instrument behaves much like a traditional multi-sampled instrument would. However, when a note is held down, the full loop plays. Here is an example of what can be done with just this instrument alone.